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This week’s post focuses on a question I received last week.

If you teach or have a student who is in middle or high school and struggles with reading, you may see it identified in their lack of comprehension. But the fact is many older students who struggle with comprehension also struggle with reading at the word level.

The reasons for this are too many to list, but a key culprit (aside from many students not getting evidence-based reading instruction in lower grades) is that around third grade, education shifts from teaching kids HOW to read to make them read to learn content. If there’s a student who isn’t caught up with their phonics – they’re going to continue to struggle in 3 grade and beyond.

In the classroom and at home, we can do all of the things to help improve comprehension, like giving vocabulary, building background knowledge, etc. – but if a student hasn’t cracked the alphabetic code, those strategies are tough and not as useful as we’d like.

If a student is struggling with decoding and encoding, we need to be able to get these students back down to word study. Here’s a great resource that explains what that could look like in older classrooms.

As a former teacher, I know a tremendous issue is time. WHEN can you possibly have the time to work on these foundational skills when you need to teach content?

Transitions: before the students line up, ask a phonemic awareness or phonics questions before they can get online.

Differentiate homework: Give some students less content reading, and provide activities that allow them to focus on foundational skills.

Small Group Instruction: this is king when it comes to needing to differentiate severely. I’d recommend a whole group lesson on grade level, talking about content/text/etc. and then breaking students up into small groups to complete their tasks. You can work with your kids who need you most several times a week.

Again, these newsletters simply scratch the surface of what students need and how we can help. They won’t solve all of the problems, but I hope they do give you a place to start.

If you have a question you’d like answered in this space, please send me an email, and I’ll add it to an upcoming post!

Professional Development Opportunities

ASPDP Course: Teaching Vocabulary All Day, Every Day (15 CTLE Hours)

This workshop will address this simple view of reading by providing instructional strategies in three of the five pillars of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, and vocabulary because mastery of those pillars leads to proficiency in fluency and comprehension as well. It will concentrate on building a foundation of word recognition skills and enabling teachers and students to build a large and varied working vocabulary and strategies for acquiring new words. It will specifically address the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students whose language comprehension may not match the demands of the school system. Those needs include activities that include and validate the students’ language and experience, as English is constantly being enriched by language and experiences that are not “standard.” Participants will embrace the idea of expanding vocabulary, not substituting one word for another. They will discuss and practice strategies for using students’ vocabulary to enhance their own.

Participants will learn a variety of quick and easy activities and drills to teach phonological awareness and phonics effectively and efficiently. They will also learn to teach vocabulary formally and informally, using morphology, syntax, and context clues, explicit instruction, and correct practice in targeted words, and by embedding vocabulary development into every activity during the school day.

Participants will also practice designing quick and effective assessments, which, instead of diagnosing students’ deficiencies, will reinforce skills taught and measure the impact of that instruction on students. To learn more and register, please click here.


IMSE’s Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham Plus

Tuition: $1,500

August 14 – 18, 2023 (virtual)

More dates are available at IMSE.com

Course Description: The IMSE Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham Plus Course and Program is 30 hours of a hands-on, interactive, and personalized class that provides a complete understanding of IMSE’s enhanced Orton-Gillingham method, the essential five components to literacy, and the tools necessary to apply it in the classroom. After participating in this accredited Structured Literacy course, teachers will understand the structure and foundation of the English language and the research behind the science of reading. Educators will have a basic knowledge of how to assess and teach students in all three tiers of RTI, as well as students with dyslexia. Participants will evaluate and teach students in phonological skills, phonics/word recognition, spelling, writing, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This course includes an asynchronous component for fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The Comprehensive OG Plus course is appropriate for teachers whose students are emergent and beginning readers and readers struggling with word recognition. This course also includes an asynchronous component that shares research and strategies for teaching and assessing fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Upon completing this course, teachers can purchase two graduate credits.


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